SOUP, RIBOLLITA, black cabbage, bean & bread soup
We enjoyed this one three times in our first week on a trip to Tuscany in the Fall 2011. It’s an Italian tradition in the Fall, we learned. As the story goes Tuscan people are frugal and never waste food. Once in earlier times after the first frost and the cabbage in the fields turned black, the people decided to eat the frozen cabbage anyway and they liked its sweeter flavor and thought it even more tender. Now they use black kale, a delicious Italian variety that we have seen here only occasionally at farmers’ markets. Regular kale makes a good substitute. And traditionally it is finished with the first press of the new crop of olive oil, Olio Nuovo. In our area the new crop oils are in November so we will use our most grassy flavored oil.
1 pound dried white beans that were soaked in brine in 1 gallon water with 3 tablespoons salt for 8 to 24 hours **
well drained and rinsed for cooking
- 4-6 ounces pancetta or natural bacon
- 2 each medium onions, chopped
- 1 cup carrots, chopped
- 1 cup celery, chopped
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper
- 3 pounds fresh Roma tomatoes or (28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes)
- 3 cups ribbon cut savoy cabbage
- 3 cups black kale (or other variety)
- 1 cup zucchini (optional)
- 8 cups chicken stock, or combination chicken stock and water)
- 5 cups Italian sour dough bread cubes without crusts
- 1/2 cup ribbon cut basil leaves
- 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Place the drained beans into a pot of fresh water and bring to boil. Simmer for about 30-40 minutes or until beans are tender. Set aside and cool in the liquid.
Heat oil in deep pot and add pancetta, onions and cook until onions begin to turn translucent. Add carrots, celery, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and red pepper flakes. Add tomatoes, cabbage, kale and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes.
Drain beans reserving liquid. Add 2 cups to the pot along with chicken stock and bean water to 8 cups. Bring to boil and simmer another 15 minutes. Add zucchini and basil and cook 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add bread cubes to soup and wait to saturate and thicken. Serve in bowls and float a layer of good EVOO or especially Olio Nuovo on top. Pass the parmesan cheese at the table.
CHEFS NOTE: We decided to brine the beans since it is our new favorite way to cook them. (Thanks to Cook’s Illustrated for doing the research) Simply place 1 pound of beans, 3 tablespoons salt , into 1 gallon water and soak for 12 to 24 hours. Drain, rinse, and proceed to cook as directed above.